I won’t lie; first impressions of Montenegro were not good. It was bucketing down when taxiing to the terminal of Podgorica Airport. I almost didn’t want to subject myself to it. It was early. It was glum. It was cold & I was tired, a consequence of having spent the previous night trying – and failing miserably – to sleep in London’s Stansted Airport, the only way I deduced that I’d guarantee making the 06:55 Ryanair departure to the Montenegrin capital, one of the few direct flights from my corner of Europe to this corner of Europe at this time of the year. I had limited time in Montenegro so I was hoping the conditions would improve, and fast; with the scenery on show in these parts you really need good weather to do the country justice. The weather did improve – on and off – and I found myself leaving Montenegro some days later for neighbouring Kosovo wondering why it had taken me so long to point my camera at this particular Balkan gem.
Region – Southeastern Europe/The Balkans (dMb tag: The Balkans). Capital – Podgorica. Population – 680,000. Official Language – Montenegrin. Currency – €uro. GDP (nominal) per capita – US$6,630 (80th). Political System – Parliamentary republic. EU Member? – No (as of April 2017). UN Member? – Yes (admitted June 2006). G20 Member? – No. Size – 14,000 km² (Europe’s 10th smallest country, slightly larger than the US state of Connecticut, or about two-thirds the size of Wales). Topography – Varied. Mostly mountainous interior with a narrow coastal plain. Formation/Independence – 2006 (following the peaceful dissolution of the former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, itself formed in 1992 following the breakup of Yugoslavia). UNESCO World Heritage sites – 4. Tourism Catchphrase/Slogans – Breathtaking Beauty; Wild Beauty. Famous For – Being Europe’s baby, its newest country; historic walled old towns, scenery; the azure Adriatic; partying. Highlights – The Bay of Kotor; the Adriatic coast; Durmitor National Park. Montenegro Titbits – Officially Crna Gora, Montenegro is the country’s better-know Italian name (which translates into English as ‘Black Mountain’); the country’s 294-kilometer-long azure Adriatic coastline boasts 117 beaches. Montenegro Observations – The roads are tight; as in most of the Balkans, unfinished construction projects are everywhere & blight the otherwise stunning landscape; most essentials – coffee, beer, meals out, a hostel bed, parking – are very economical, petrol not so much; everyone seems to smoke everywhere including in cafes & restaurants; the locals are, for the most part, very welcoming & friendly; you’re never far from a church or monastery (or from anything in tiny Montenegro); coffee is served with a straw. You don’t have to use it of course but it’s a somewhat bizarre accompaniment to an espresso.
Visits – 1 (April 2017). Where I went/What I saw – The Bay of Kotor (Perast, Kotor & Porto Montenegro); Lovcen National Park & the Njegos Mausoleum; Budva & The Budva Riviera (Sveti Stefan)); Lake Skadar National Park & Podgorica.
The fun side of travel. I’m 6 hours into an 8-hour wait for an overnight, cross-border bus to Pristina, Kosovo, a strange city I’ll arrive into at stupid o’clock in the morning (5 a.m. all going to plan). I’m in a smoky café (the Montenegrins could do with sorting that disgusting societal detail out in a hurry) in Podgorica, a European capital I’d say the majority of people have never heard of before. I’m tired, I’m cold (it shouldn’t be this chilly here this time of year) & I’d love a shower (and access to the hire car that I returned earlier today). This is the fun side of travel. At least I have coffee & awesome travel photography from the last three days in Montenegro, including today in Podgorica, to help pass the time.
While I’m glad I stopped by, there’s really not a whole lot to see in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, the few hours it took me this afternoon to walk a loop of the city from the bus station and back again more than sufficient time to sample what is on offer. The city, Europe’s newest capital city and one of its smallest, doesn’t attract too many of my ilk, that much plainly obvious. Yes, it’s a bit rough around the edges in places, but it’s clean(ish), has a young & friendly populace, has some photo-worthy bridges (yes, bridges), a positively glowing turquoise river, a lot of trees, a centuries-old Clock Tower that I forgot to photograph, a big church – the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ – that I didn’t see, a nice pedestrianised region for eating & drinking (Hercegovacka) and… well, that’s about it really. Suffice to say, people don’t come to Montenegro for its capital city charms. If they come at all they do so to sample the country’s rugged mountainous interior, its walled medieval towns and its string of Adriatic Coast beaches. I know I certainly did, passing through the capital a few times in the process.